In spite of the ugliness and rapid decline of scruples in Washington these days, it remains one of the great cities of the world. Steeped in history, culture and art, much of it reflects what has always made America a great country.
Obviously, it’s home to some of the more powerful people in the country with influence and deals happening in one of the numerous bars throughout the city. The following are some of our favourite places in the city to have a drink – whether it’s paid for by a lobbyist or not.
Washington is such an interesting town because it is drenched in history. The best place to experience that history first hand with a great cocktail in your hand is at the Round Robin Bar in the Willard Continental.
Glasses have been raised by the powerful and influential at this bar since before the Civil War. Established in 1847, patrons have included everyone from Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Eleanor Roosevelt and more, many of whom are hanging in portraits throughout the bar. It’s a beautiful space of polished mahogany and leather seating, but we recommend sitting at the round bar and listen to seasoned bartender Jim Hewes, who has served drinks here for six presidential administrations. Once a month, the bar also offers “History Happy Hour” described as “every drink tells a story” welcomes a stellar line-up of political experts, journalists, authors and historians to join The Willard’s legendary bartender Jim Hewes in a dynamic session combining education and entertainment. The two-hour program provides attendees with a few of Washington’s and the nation’s most intriguing stories of yesteryear along with a hands-on lesson in the art of mixology.
Why couldn’t history class have been like this in high school?
Not far from the Round Robin Bar is P.O.V. at the newer W Hotel. P.O.V. is the W’s rooftop bar that over looks a number of different Washington monuments, including the White House in particular. It may be your only chance to get a good look at the residence since the more recent closing of Pennsylvania Ave. for both car and pedestrian traffic.
As with most W lounges, P.O.V. is about modern and sleek sophistication, making it a very different vibe than the Round Robin. It offers up the usual creative cocktails found at most W properties and transitions from a lounge/restaurant into more of a party atmosphere after 9pm.
Located in the Ritz Carlton, the Quadrant is a stunning space. It opened in 2015 and is split into four different seating areas, each providing an elegant and stylish experience. Although Quadrant offers a wonderful menu, we love it for it’s fantastic and creative cocktail menu put together by lead mixologist Christopher Mendenhall.
The bar is also known for it’s unique vault, that holds the bar’s rare and expensive reserves. When ordering from the vault, you are taken to the six foot combination safe and are personally served with expertise from Mendenhall himself. The bar also offers sampling options for patrons to sip on any of the four pairing styles of bourbons and whiskeys.
Recommended drink – Smoked Old Fashioned. Trust us.
The Watergate is Washington’s best known hotel and conveys images of corruption, deceit and the fall of Richard Nixon’s administration. This is unfortunate because after a recent renovation, The Watergate Hotel is a stunning and magnificent hotel. One of the aspects that makes it such a wonderful hotel are two of its drinking establishments – Top of the Gate and The Next Whisky Bar.
The Next Whisky Bar, named from the famous line from The Doors’ “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)’, is a space you can’t miss the minute you enter the hotel. The lounge is beautiful highlighted by the amber glow of the bar’s walls, which is made from of 2,500 illuminated whisky bottles. Every detail is covered, including the staff outfits that were designed by Mad Men’s own costume designer Jamie Bryant and furniture by by Ron Arad in collaboration with Moroso.
Recommended drink – “1967” Toki Suntory, Fassionola Syrup, Lemon, Burlesque Bitters
Take the elevator all the way up to Top of the Gate, The Watergate’s fantastic rooftop bar. The bar offers 360 degree view of many of Washington’s most recongnizable monuments with close proximity to the Kennedy Center, the Potomac River, the Key and Arlington bridges, and more.
In the winter, the bar also offers a small skating rink, which is primarily a novelty but establishes a lighter vibe for the lounge.
Recommended drink – Keoke Coffee
Jack Rose is the place to go in Washington if you are a fan of Whiskey. In fact, it is one of the most preeminent destinations for whiskey lovers in the country, boasting (at press time) 2,687 bottles of whiskey.
Technically a restaurant, it leans more heavily on the feeling of a great saloon. If you are a seasoned whiskey connoisseur or a novice, the folks at Jack Rose make it easy for you to find something that’s perfect for your meal or for just a simple drink or two. We recommend a nice flight of a sampling of whiskey’s including something more unique from Japan or India.
Recommended drink – Nikka Distillery Japanese flight.